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What is Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic Use Disorder?

A diagnosis for sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic use disorder is based on a problematic pattern of drug use leading to significant impairment or distress, as demonstrated by at least two of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:

  • Sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs) are often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to reduce or control sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use.
  • A great deal of time is spent trying to obtain the sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic; use it; or recover from its effects.
  • A person has a craving or strong desire to use the sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic.
  • Recurrent sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use results in a failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home.
  • A person continues sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused of exacerbated by the effects of its use.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use.
  • There is recurrent use of the sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic in situations that are physically hazardous.
  • Sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely caused or exacerbated by the drug.
  • Tolerance is developed, as defined by either of the following:
    • A need for increased amounts of the sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
    • A reduced effect with continued use of the same amount of the sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic.
  • Withdrawal, as demonstrated by either of the following:
    • Characteristic withdrawal syndrome for sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics.
    • Sedative, hypnotics, or anxiolytics (or a closely related substance) are taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic use disorder is rated as mild with the presence of 2-3 symptoms, moderate with 4-5 symptoms, and severe with 6 or more symptoms. A diagnosis of unspecified sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic-related disorder may apply when there are symptoms characteristic of sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic-related disorder but the symptoms do not meet the full criteria for one of these specific disorders, nor any of the disorders in the substance-related and addictive disorders diagnostic class.

Mental Health Library Sources:

Information included in all topics of the Mental Health Library comes from the Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5 and Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Complete diagnostic and treatment information may be found within these publications.


Information within the Mental Health Library is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis purposes. Rather, it is provided as a public educational service to make people aware of mental health conditions. Please consult a qualified mental health professional for a diagnosis of any suspected mental health illness.

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